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Minnesota Virtual Academy student Gary Riege worked tirelessly on his computer to craft the 2014 Strawberry Fest logo. The tech-savvy teen said he likes creating things with his electronic drawing pad. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)

Teen Star Wars fan designs ‘Yoda’ logo for Cottage Grove Strawberry Fest logo

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It’s not every day that the most famous Jedi master graces the apparel of thousands of people at once. However, Yoda’s mug, designed by Cottage Grove teen Gary Riege, will be a common sight next month as the symbol of the 2014 Strawberry Fest, appropriately themed “May the Berry Be With You.”

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The 16-year-old high schooler at Minnesota Virtual Academy has a passion for astrophysics, space and science and has been a superfan of the Star Wars franchise since childhood. As a longtime Cottage Grove resident, Riege and his family attend the yearly Strawberry Fest, but he said he never thought he would be a button designer.

“We opened the water bill one afternoon and saw the contest to design the button and I immediately ran over to him and said, ‘Gary, you have to draw something,’” his mother Christine said. “He’s usually so focused on his online classes, but I said it was OK to focus on the contest for a bit.”

With just a few days until the deadline, Riege quickly got to work. Unsure of what character or scene to design, Riege said he looked to his dog for inspiration.

“One of my dogs is named Yoda,” he said of the 9-year-old husky/malamute mix. “He was a rescue and is such a good dog.”

A computer-savvy teen, Riege said the first draft only took him a couple hours. He used an external attachment that allowed him to zoom in and trace objects. His idea: turn Yoda into a strawberry, of course.

“I knew I wanted to make it my own and make it unique,” he said. “I edited it and traced over it again and added some colors. The original copy didn’t have the eyes staring straight out and I changed that.”

Several hours later a final version emerged, depicting Yoda proudly gripping a glowing lightsaber.

Lori Olsen, president of Strawberry Fest, said with the theme revolving around Star Wars, Riege’s design was an easy choice.

“Each year this decision is always a difficult one,” Olsen said. “Gary’s design was a perfect match for the theme to represent this year’s Strawberry Fest.”

While Riege is no stranger to recognition — he’s on the president’s list and lettered in academics at MVA— he was shocked to win the button design contest:?“To think my button will be worn by so many people is crazy.”

As the winner of the button design contest, not only will his artwork be displayed on each button but Riege will also be the grand marshal of the Strawberry Fest Parade.

The 2014 Strawberry Fest is June 19-22 at Kingston Park.

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Emily Buss
Emily Buss joined the South Washington County Bulletin in February 2013. She covers local government in Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park and Newport, along with other general assignment reporting. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
(651) 459-4629
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